Federal prosecutors will not charge the New York police officer implicated in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, an African American man killed almost five years ago.
The decision announced by the US attorney Richard Donoghue on Tuesday was another blow to the Garner family, figureheads in the Black Lives Matter movement, who have campaigned to hold the NYPD accountable. US justice department sources said the final call on the non-indictment was made by the attorney general, William Barr.
Garner’s death, on 17 July 2014, became a focal point for national conversation on race and policing. Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe”, were chanted by protesters across the US.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” the legal maxim holds, but what about justice dragged out and administered piecemeal, bureaucratized and monetized and extended well past the public’s capacity to maintain its righteous anger? What about justice delayed so long that it is no longer demanded?
This summer will mark five years since Eric Garner died after a New York City police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, put him in a chokehold while attempting to arrest him for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. The strangling move was prohibited under NYPD rules. Garner was unarmed and begging for his life with a plea, “I can’t breathe!” that would become a rallying cry for the nascent Black Lives Matter movement.
“We know racism played a big part in our brother’s death and has played a role in denying us justice,” said the sister of Bayoh, on the fourth anniversary of his death in police custody.
Sheku Bayoh died while being restrained by police using batons, CS gas, pepper spray and restraints on his legs and arms
Family first demanded a public inquiry in 2018 after the Lord Advocate decided not to prosecute any of the officers involved
Both the family of Bayoh and their lawyer Aamer Anwar have argued that racism was a factor in Bayoh’s death, and that dishonest attempts have subsequently been made by police sources to smear his reputation